Author Archives: Sig Cohen

avatar

About Sig Cohen

Sig Cohen is a is a Mediator & partner at Tough Conversations in Washington, D.C.
EMAIL: sigcohen@toughconversations.net
BIO: About Sig
PHONE: 202-544-5675

Have Seniors Become Their Own Worst Enemy?
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, MEDIATION, on .
Have Seniors Become Their Own Worst Enemy? by Sig Cohen

I used to like being told I look great for my age. It was a super ego-booster, made me feel special. But what did that remark really mean? It meant that the person making the remark has a stereotypical view of what older people SHOULD look like. And I didn’t fit their stereotype. It wasn’t really a compliment. It was a remark tainted with prejudice.

Click Here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

The High-Wire Act Called Mediation
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, MEDIATION, on .
The High-Wire Act Called Mediation by Sig Cohen

I once heard an experienced mediator comment: “I care, but I don’t care that much.” I never quite grasped his meaning. Was he suggesting that a mediation session is entirely in the hands of the parties, and if they can’t reach an agreement within a specific period of time, tough luck? Or did he feel that, despite how close the parties got to an agreement, if an impasse arose, he’d be damned if he’d fall on his sword to help them reach the finish line? Not always, but in many mediations, I feel like I’m one of the Flying Wallendas, balanced on a high wire trying to accomplish two things:

  1. Help the parties reach the far end of the wire (settling the case); and
  2. Not fall off the tightrope (i.e. keeping a party from leaving the session).

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article

Who’d Have Thought
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, MEDIATION, on .
Who'd Have Thought - Sig Cohen, Tough Conversations

As elder and adult family mediators, we keep learning about (not-so-new) legislation, court settlements, and resources that may pleasantly surprise many elders and their family members. Here are three that may benefit you, a loved one, or someone you support.

  1. Medicaid is Not a Single Program
Many, including myself, thought that Medicaid covers only nursing home care for low- and no-income individuals who financially qualify for the benefit. Not so.

Click Here to Read Sig Cohen's full article...

An Alternative to Guardianship Made for Mediation
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
An Alternative to Guardianship Made for Mediation|Sig Cohen

Well, if you die before she does, then she’ll need a guardian,” an attorney recently told a friend of mine. He was referring to my friend’s sister who relies largely on him to handle her financial, healthcare, and other concerns. The attorney’s remark was like the snap of a wet towel across his thigh. My friend realized: there is no one else he knows who lives nearby who can or would handle her needs. However, a guardianship may not necessarily be the only solution to his situation.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Planning 10.0: Your Ethical Will
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, on .
Planning 10.0: Your Ethical Will | Sig Cohen

Besides our will, powers of attorney, trust documents, and other legal, financial, and end-of-life instructions that we should share with family members, we need to prepare one other item: our ethical will. Ethical wills (or legacy letters) are designed to transmit values from one generation to the next. They set out our beliefs, principles, and hopes for those who succeed us.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

My Least Favorite Words
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
My Least Favorite Words | Andrea Vacca

Everyone has words they dislike.  I have three:

The first is “facility.”  Especially when grouped with ‘assisted living’ or ‘continuing care,’ or ‘memory care.’ I’d always thought a facility is a place where things are made, or shipped from, or warehoused. Facilities are places for getting things done. Why do we apply the term ‘facility’ to describe places where older people reside? Residences or homes are where people live.  Like long-term care residences, or skilled-nursing homes.  Coupling the word facility with places where many seniors reside contributes to the objectification of older people, that is, treating them as an object or thing.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Washington’s Latest Controversy . . . Over a Treehouse
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
Washington’s Latest Controversy . . . Over a Treehouse |Sig Cohen

My wife and I live in Washington DC in a neighborhood called Capitol Hill. As such, it would seem that our lives would be consumed with:

  • National concern;
  • Tough legislative issues;
  • Key judicial decisions;
upon which the fate of the country turns. Right? Wrong. The major buzz in our neighborhood is about a house. Not the House of Representatives nor the White House, but, believe it or not, a tree house.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Is Mediation Too Risky for Some?
avatar


Authored by , re: Miscellaneous, on .
Is Mediation Too Risky for Some? | Sig Cohen

As an elder (or adult family) mediator, I constantly wonder why more families with disagreements about caring for an older adult parent or handling vexing estate matters, don’t engage a mediator to help them resolve their disputes. Mediation can settle differences without time-consuming and expensive litigation, let alone aggravating already frayed intra-family relations. We’ve heard a lot about doing a better job of marketing ourselves.  More involvement with social media.  Better networking.  And so on. Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Lost in Silence
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, Family, on .

As mediators we know there are two kinds of silence: The first is tactical.  During a mediation, we may remain silent while one party to a dispute wrestles with how to respond to a proposal, or maybe comes up with an alternative offer.  This tactic can lead to a settlement.  I don’t use it often, but when employed at the right time, it can move the process forward and eventually yield agreement.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

The Wrecked Car Analogy
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
The Wrecked Car Analogy |Sig Cohen

No offense intended, but when I hear of a family riddled with distrust, anger, and even denial about their situation or condition of their parents, I most often envision a wrecked car. Can’t help it. It’s the first image that comes to mind. There it stands: Not just dings, but serious dents, a missing headlight, duct tape holding the rearview mirror together, and so on. My job as an elder mediator is checking whether the car can travel to its destination. It’s NOT to try to repair the car.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Mediation as a “Disruptive Innovation”
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
Mediation as a “Disruptive Innovation” | Sig Cohen

Based on Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen’s 1997 classic The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, my recent article published in Mediate.com examines how mediation can replace litigation to become the standard practice for resolving disputes in the U.S. While most consider mediation an ‘alternative’ to litigation, I argue it’s only a matter of time before mediation reaches ‘cornerstone status’ in our legal system. Among other things, the article focuses on how law firms and legal education may have to adapt to achieve this goal. However, the outcome can only result in a less expensive, time consuming and emotionally draining process.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Separating the Music from the Noise
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Separating the Music from the Noise | Sig Cohen

Imagine sitting in a noisy restaurant, barely able to discern beautiful music filtering through the din. Or imagine a strainer with a large mesh basket filled with stuff blocking it so that only the tiniest bit of liquid is allowed to drain out. That’s what it’s like in some mediations I conduct. A lot of noise – noise that’s important to the persons explaining their interests and what they’d like to see come out of the process. But it’s noise just the same. Accompanying their words are the drama, the pitch of the contending voices, the marshaling of facts and assumptions — all aimed at influencing a favorable outcome.

Click here for Sig Cohen's full article...

What Do Mediation and Palliative Care Have in Common?
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, on .
What Do Mediation and Palliative Care Have in Common?  | Sig Cohen

The more I learn about palliative care, the more I’m persuaded it’s a lot like mediation.

  • Palliative care allows terminally ill patients to spend their last months (or less) without intensive and often intrusive medical interventions.
  • Mediation enables parties to settle their dispute without interminable and costly trials.
Neither the mediator nor the palliative care physician is a “fixer.”

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Team Builders? Yes! Magicians? Hardly.
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Team Builders Yes Magicians Hardly | Sig Cohen

In a recent post, I discussed team building as essential to carrying out many mediated agreements. But sometimes it’s not in the cards. Simply, the parties haven’t reached the point (or may never reach the point) where they can sit down at the same table physically or via Skype or Facetime and hammer out an agreement. The toxicity may be too high. Distrust astronomical. Positions entrenched. Or one party may be so certain of a favorable judicial ruling that she outright dismisses any interest in mediation. What to do?

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Hitting the Jackpot — In Mediation
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Hitting the Jackpot — In Mediation | Sig Cohen

Carolyn and I do a fair bit of mediation at the D.C. Superior Court. She mediates tax, probate and civil matters. I handle divorce, child protection (neglect and abuse cases), and probate as well. In our court, guardianship for the elderly falls under the Probate Court. I get a little passionate about some of the cases that I mediate. Actually, mediate isn’t the best term. In the best of circumstances, it’s team building.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

To Open Your Eyes, Change Your Shoes
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
To Open Your Eyes Change Your Shoes | Sig Cohen

Many of the world’s top ‘movers and shakers’ gathered last January in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual World Economic Forum to renew connections, exchange ideas, and expand their understanding on critical global issues. Conferees could also experience a mock version of poverty at the local level. The Crossroads Foundation of Hong Kong hosted for a second year “Struggle for Survival,” a live simulation that offered Davos participants an opportunity “to take a few steps in the shoes of those living on $2 per day, which is nearly one-half the world’s population.”

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Say It Yourself!
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
Say It Yourself! | Sig Cohen

{Time to read: 3 minutes} [This article originally posted April 30, 2012] I was recently asked to pass a message from one party to another. Party A didn’t want to confront Party B. Reluctantly, I agreed to be the go-between. And as usual, I turned out to be as much the enemy in the eyes of the recipient as the person who asked me to relay her message. Talk about a tough conversation. It was impossible.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Entering “Elder-dom” – Part 2: The Legacy Question
avatar


Authored by , re: LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
Entering “Elder-dom” – Part 2: The Legacy Question | Sig Cohen

In a previous article, we explored some challenges that often surface when engaging in a tough conversation with an older adult. Those challenges include: autonomy, independence, and even dignity. Here we examine yet another challenge: an older adult’s legacy. Not financially, but how others remember them after they have passed.

Two examples:

  • George was nearing his 100th birthday. Having spent his 99th birthday with his family, he decided only his two children and their spouses should join him for his 100th. Having so many relatives visit at one time, he said, was exhausting. Since he lived some distance from his children, grandchildren and other relatives, he wished his family members would visit him throughout the year instead of all at once. But his family members loved these occasions that also provided an opportunity for a reunion.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Good Death?’
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Good Death?’ | Sig Cohen

After several years of relentless chemo and radiation to check her cancer, Rebecca decided to die with dignity.

She consulted with family members and some close friends and then contacted a nearby hospice. Whatever ‘tough conversations’ there might have been were brief, open and honest. How could anyone object to Rebecca’s decision after all the various treatments that she had undergone? Everyone was in the loop: family members, close friends, some neighbors and a few former colleagues.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

What if you build it and they DON’T come?
avatar


Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .
What if you build it and they DON’T come? | Sig Cohen

How many times have I encountered people, or persons who know someone, involved in a major dispute but refuse to engage in mediation? What keeps them from trying to settle a serious difference that may reduce, if not eliminate, intra-family strife, as well as the emotional and financial costs of prolonged conflict?

In our practice, we’ve encountered parties who admit that — without our involvement as neutrals and non-judgmental listeners — they would never have put long-standing and challenging issues behind them. But what about family members who’d rather let the pot simmer than cool things off?

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

A Book to Make You Laugh, Cry and Ponder
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
A Book to Make You Laugh, Cry and Ponder | Sig Cohen

The New Yorker magazine cartoonist Roz Chast’s Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT? evoked a range of emotions as I absorbed her insightful, witty – but essentially sad – chronicle of her parents’ final years.

What Chast reveals is more than a description of her tortured web of (mostly negative) feelings for her mother; her sympathy for her dad; and more than a step-by-step dissection of her parents’ slide from independence…to assisted living…to nursing care…to hospice. In essence, she details her parents’ decline from a unique ‘only-child’ perspective.

Click here to Sig Cohen's full article...

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day Gift
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
A Different Kind of Mother’s Day Gift | Sig Cohen

What to get my wife for Mother’s Day? Beyond the requisite flowers, dinner out, or Whitman’s Sampler, what to give? At various times my wife has asked me: “What am I supposed to do in an emergency?” “What if you get very sick, or worse….?” “Whom do I call?” “Where do I look for your insurance papers, information on your pension, etc?

When I showed her where I keep our vital documents, she replied: “How can anyone find anything in there?” So, I got a loose-leaf notebook with plenty of tabs and set to work. The first page lists critical phone numbers: Whom to call regarding my pension, our retirement accounts, insurance companies, long-term care, etc. Next, a table of contents. Then the tabs:

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

Don’t Get Stuck Between the Taffy and the Truth
avatar


Authored by , re: LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
Don’t Get Stuck Between the Taffy and the Truth | Sig Cohen

I just read my horoscope. It states: “You feel as if you are being pulled like taffy as you listen to both sides of a story. Encourage the parties involved to respect each other’s differences.”

Welcome to mediation… and to life! My horoscope reads like a “best practices” maxim for mediators, and for the rest of us as well.

When someone tells me about a situation or another person’s behavior or actions, my mediator mindset automatically responds:

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

What I Love about Elder Mediation
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .
What I Love about Elder Mediation | Sig Cohen

When talking about elder mediation, reactions often toggle from “How can you deal with such difficult people?” to even “Don’t you want to take a hot bath to clean off all that toxin?”  It’s easy to feel discouraged (sometimes), but then I consider all the positives:

  1. There are no winners and losers.  Mediation encourages parties to identify the issues dividing them, reach an agreement about their differences, and then collaborate on a plan to carry out their agreement. That’s anything but winning and losing. It’s giving families a path on which they can move forward – a path they themselves have forged.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...

You went to…a “Death Cafe”?
avatar


Authored by , re: Elder Care, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Trusts, Estates & Elder law, on .

Yep. Talking about death and dying can be a tough conversation. I recently visited a “Death Cafe” where a discussion about death and dying was frank and open. But “fascinating” best describes the candor and compassion of the two-hour conversation. The idea of a death café has intrigued me since learning about it a year ago. As an elder mediator helping families resolve disputes concerning an older parent or relative, I wanted to see how willing people are to talk about this often closeted topic. I was pleasantly surprised. The nine of us talked about dying and death, both personally and objectively.

Click here to read Sig Cohen's full article...